Busy Buyers Look To Europe and China
By Ernest Kao
The biggest challenge facing exhibitors at this week’s Interstoff Asia Essential (Hong Kong, October 5-7) was how to occupy themselves while sitting in booths devoid of customers. The scant number of visitors to this session of what once was a bustling textile fair was hardly sufficient to justify exhibitors’ time and effort.
Exhibitors, who came in smaller numbers this time round, were feeling less confident about receiving orders at the “comparatively quiet” fair. To fill up the space, fair organizers positioned the booths sparsely around the huge (and pretty empty) trend forum centered in the middle of the hall.
Is it the lack of visitors during the past years that has deterred exhibitors from participating in Interstoff Asia Essential - or is it the declining number of exhibitors that has convinced visitors that Interstoff Asia is not essential?
Too Many Fairs
It’s the not the economy that’s to blame for the empty halls at recent fairs. It’s that buyers, who have little free time these days, have to pick and choose very carefully which shows to attend.
“In general, trade fair turnouts are going down,” said Suresh Kurana, chief operating officer for PT Sulindafin, an Indonesia-based synthetic fiber manufacturer. “They’re held too frequently and there are too many of them.”
Even regular exhibitors such as Hong Kong-based Central Fabrics (part of the Central Textiles Group) agreed that there have been significant declines in traffic level over the last few years.
“We haven’t been attending this fair for about three to four years. To be honest, I don’t think we can do much business here anymore. We are here this year hoping to expand our client base,” said Kimi Lau Kin Man, a sales manager at Central Fabrics.
Hong Kong trade fairs have been slowly losing the competitive edge they once held while they were considered the ‘gateway to China’, exhibitors told Inside Fashion. Today exhibitors have their eyes trained on China and will opt to participate in fairs on the mainland, most of which are proving to be not much better in terms of the quality of visitors (many are too far down the executive ladder to be able to make or even influence a purchasing decision).
“Hong Kong used to be the [so-called] gateway to China. Now everyone thinks going direct to China is a better option,” said Mr. Kurana. “We’re looking to attend more China trade fairs.”
“The focus is on the China market right now so we usually take a booth in Shanghai [Intertextile] instead,” Mr. Lau added.
Some exhibitors such as Billy Sin of SJT Sourcing Limited attribute the small turnout to the fact that “less people show up at the autumn fair as opposed to the spring session.” Nonetheless, Sin claims that his company never really receives that many orders at this fair anyway.
Mr. Lau added that InterstoffAsia was held at a bad time. Holding the fair during China’s ‘Golden Week’ (Oct.1-7) did nothing to encourage mainland buyers to visit. However, even Hong Kong-based buyers were shied away, perhaps having already checked out the huge textile offerings at Première Vision and Texworld in Paris last month. Hong Kong, it seems, is no longer the go-to place for fabric sourcing.
Still, the fair which calls itself “the home of cutting-edge textiles” attracts a contingent of high-tech, eco and functional fabric producers each year. Innovative Korean and Taiwanese fabric makers often capitalize on the event to showcase new, functional textile developments.
“This is our first time at an overseas fair and we’ve had very good feedback so far,” said Ujin Seo, manager at Jain Textile Co. Ltd, a Korean functional fabric developer and manufacturer. “We came because we were told that this is a small fair but with lots of quality buyers. It’s a good place to start.”